11 June, 2018

The 10 Second Rule

(Image downloaded via Google)

Parents do love their kids.  So do we but, as a parent, I do admit to the fact that there have been countless times (and there still are) when kids can be absolutely stubborn, as obstinate and intractable as mules and in the process, so completely overwhelming that they overpower our sense of reason and logic and completely annihilate our capacity to be reasonable about their stubbornness.  
To cut a long story short, there are innumerable times when kids can have parents walking up the wall and perching on the ceiling, with the said parents wanting to pull their own hair out right from the roots – one by one !
The 10 second rule
The one thing I realized along the way was that as much as I would try not to let them get to me, they eventually used to, very successfully.  When that did happen, the best solution invariably was to ‘take a minute to myself’, ‘count to ten’ and after the 10 second count, if I still felt like screaming at them, I could and I would.  
That was when I realized that that was all it took.  10 seconds to get out of that ‘bull that sees red all around’ frame of mind and a minute more to calm myself down, get myself together and gather my thoughts so that I wouldn’t get angry beyond measure and say or do something that I would regret once my head was clear. 
Invariably, in fact the answer is never, after that 10 second astoundingly thought clearing, calming break, have I had to scream at either Macadamia or Pecan through their younger years.  The same Macadamia is a young adult now and Pecan, a teen and they still do drive me crazy sometimes but the 10 second rule has proved golden and time tested.
Walk away – Clear your head
Sometimes, if the situation so demands, walking away from our kids just for a wee bit is ok.  This is especially true of really intense, tense, high pressure situations where it is our saneness, our rationality and lucidity that hangs in the balance.
I do admit - walking away isn’t an easy thing to do.  I remember a standoff with Pecan once which was particularly bad – over a scoop of ice cream, of all the things.  It escalated so quickly that I did not have time to gather my thoughts.  It left me livid, hyperventilating and fuming. Despite me being visibly upset and angry, he wouldn’t budge – wouldn’t give a millimeter, let alone an inch.
I just pictured myself in the eye of my mind and say myself how he was probably seeing me – hands on my hips, eyes flashing anger, absolutely livid, my ears and face flaming red, looking like Mt.Etna about to erupt.  That image scared me and in that instant of sudden epiphany and clarity (it does happen to me just sometimes), I realized if that image could scare me, how terrifying must it be for a young child ?
I did exactly what the title says – I put the ice cream scoop in the sink, the ice cream tub in the freezer and I walked away from him. I felt immensely guilty – make no mistake on that count.  But that menacing parent I’d seen a vision of, in the eye of my mind, was not the kind of parent I wanted to be.  I remember telling him that I was way too angry for my own good and his but that I did love him and that I needed a couple of minutes to calm myself down.  I told him I was going to be in the bedroom for a bit.
And I walked away.
He started wailing right about then but that little bit of physical distance was all it took for me to calm down and de-stress. That little distance enabled me to listen to my own inner voice for a bit.  It facilitated wiser counsel to prevail by preventing my senses being herded towards illogical, temperamental behaviour which I'd have regretted later.  It enabled me to process my thoughts even though my auditory senses were being assailed by the screeches and screams, without blowing a gasket myself.  
It gave me those precious few seconds in which I could think calmly and figure out my next step.  When I was calmer, I was able to go back and talk to him about how he got upset, how I got upset and how we could remedy the situation.
When kids lose it, or are stubborn – they look at us, as adults, to help them.  Just that they have very funny ways of telling us that they need help !!!
Kids can sense when we’re angry with them, so the more our frustration mounts, the more frenetic and hysterical they can get, the more out-of-control the situation starts to feel, for them too. 
If we take a minute to just stop ourselves and get our heads right, we are also giving them space to calm down enough so that we can try to come to some sort of compromise and understanding. There’s no point trying to reason with a small child (or adult for that matter) who is already worked up, all wound and uptight. They can’t see around their own frustrations. So then, what’s the point in trying to continue?
Walking away does make you feel horrible for a bit, as it could be construed as abandonment but in high pressure situations it is worth taking that one minute to yourself, to organise and channelise your own thought processes.
If I can’t learn to deal with my anger and find proper ways of channelizing the same, how do I expect my kids to learn to do that ?  If we end up having screaming and screeching matches over things, how are they to know that screaming and screeching aren’t always solutions to problems ?
Kids learn more by seeing how we behave, taking a page out of our books when we ourselves deal with high pressure situations. But taking that all important minute to gather your thoughts, if the situation so demands it, does not make you a bad mom or a bad parent.
If your kid is behaving like a pint-sized Energizer Bunny high on amphetamines, unreasonably bouncing off the walls like he/she is absolutely over-the-top crazy right then, as one parent to another, I do think you have every right to step away, calm yourself down, get your thoughts together, if necessary dunk your head in cold water and get your head in the game.
Sometimes, cruel as it may seem to just walk away, doing just that saves both, the parent and the child, a lot of trauma.  Taking a minute to yourself does not make you a bad parent.  It makes you a sensible one for acknowledging that need to mentally gather your thoughts and emotions rather than just plough on like a trooper despite knowing that you are very close, dangerously close to breaking point.
Raising the next generation, dealing with the ups and downs of parenting, just dealing with those little people in general, is really hard most of the time. We’re human too and there’s no shame in acknowledging that fact.  There’s only so much one can take before we ourselves lose it, especially when the wrong buttons keep getting pushed, time and again.  Sometimes those Energizer Bunnies not just push the wrong buttons, they have their fingers pressed down hard on those buttons constantly, like there's no tomorrow !
Again, as far as losing it goes, it is fine to completely lose it too, if the situation so demands but it is much better to lose it in private rather than in front of an already out-of-control kid.
Imagine the scene if you start screaming, jump up and down and punch  pillows, throw things around, tear paper to bits or whatever else it takes for you to vent - in front of the said kid.  They’d be sure then that we’ve indeed lost it and looking at it from a little person’s point of view, a five feet plus adult behaving that way must be incredibly scary from a two feet perspective.
I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, for it is a mantra I swear by.
Parenting has always been hard work, it still is and will continue to be so, for every single parent anywhere and everywhere in this world.  We sign up for it the moment we take that step towards bringing a new life into this world and with the laughs and the giggles, the squeals and the cuddles, there are also the tears and the pain, the heartbreaks and the strain.  That is reality and it isn’t about to go anywhere in a hurry.
So, dear fellow parents, keep up the good work at rearing and raising the next generation and remember – if the situation so demands it – it is ok to walk away for a bit and count to ten. Parenting is challenging, it is demanding, it is testing, it is grueling and it is way too complicated and emotional a task to expect magical fairies and unicorns to sprinkle fairy dust and work miracle cures in defusing situations.
As parents, we’ve got to do those ourselves.

04 January, 2018

Decoding TeenLect

(Image Courtesy : DailyMirror via Google)

Have you recently had a conversation with a teenager ?

Well, it is a rather unique experience, a very enlightening one, one that will make you throw all your copies of the Oxford / Webster’s Dictionary or anything remotely connected with what you'd thought was normal human language, right out of the nearest window.

Welcome to the world of the TeenLect - The Teenage Dialect. 

Go and grab a seat within earshot of a bunch of teens, get yourself a nice cup of chamomile tea (chamomile is said to have calming properties on the human mind and if you’re going to sit and listen to a bunch of teens speaking, trust me when I say, you’re going to need that chamomile) and make sure you’re sitting next to a hard, concrete wall (just in case you need to turn around and bang your head on it … it happens every once in a while and it would save you the trouble of getting up to find a wall).

I asked Macadamia and Pecan something today and got a reply so encrypted that it would put spies the world over, to shame.  Having spoken to parents of other teens too, we are all in agreement about one thing –  teen replies, monosyllabic or otherwise, have left us convinced that space agencies all over the world have successfully managed to not just find extra-terrestrial life in the cosmos but that they’ve also transported a few of those life forms onto this planet too.

Macadamia, through her teen years has continuously and consistently foxed me with her brand of dialect.  For her, such language / slang is a natural thing but it used to leave me rather sapped and faded. I speak in the Past Tense because I was under the impression I was immunized and quite anaesthetized.  I thought wrong ! Pecan stepped into teen years and has decided to up the ante to an extent that leaves me rather breathless just trying to keep up with his brand of the teen dialect.

I feel like a headless chicken when talking to either one of them and it does make me rather acutely aware of my slowing synaptic responses. Robs me of the ability to think straight or rather, if it is one of those long-drawn conversations, it simply robs me of the ability to think altogether. I’m basically too busy trying to keep pace with the slangs that form such an integral part of their speech these days. If both of them are talking to me (or better still, fighting over something) then I retreat to a safe corner with a cup of that chamomile tea I told you about, earlier.

I vividly remember this incident a few years back when I was checking my emails and suddenly, a little box popped up seemingly out of nowhere on my gmail screen. It was Macadamia saying “ Heyloo – whatcha doin ?” Errr…. were we not in the same house, under the same roof ?? Sitting in the same house, having a conversation on Google Chat was a rather surreal experience for me. “OMG” she goes. I waited- simply waited for the bomb to drop. “Holy Cranberries !!!!!” appeared on the screen next. “Cranberries ?” I wondered, in a stupor of sorts. “Does she really mean the cranberry cranberries or is this an abbreviation or slang for something else ?” asked a portion of my brain that still happened to be sane. “Holy Cranberries” she typed “something’s seriously flipped”. OK – now we were “talking” about someone. Looking back at what happened though, it was really funny – me sitting in the bedroom, Macadamia and Pecan in the living room and us communicating through (of all the things) Google Chat !! The fun was absolutely compounded (for me, of course), given the fact that Macadamia was throwing language at me that I could hardly make any sense of. Later on, I was given to understand that Holy Cow was really old fashioned, Holy Moly has been used a lot of times and hence is really boring. Thus was born the new terminology “Holy Cranberries !”

Looking at it from a parent’s point of view, I would say they do parents a lot of good. They increase a parent’s imaginative power, they add “as yet unheard of” vocabulary to a parent’s dictionary, they work on increasing a parent’s fitness by getting them to work their facial muscles as never before done and they make parents teach themselves methods in self-preservation of sanity. Kids, ten and above, can be so effectively prolific in their communicative abilities that it simply leaves parents speechless, many a times.

The teen world, especially, seems to go into these phases, at times (fortunately, not all the time) wherein they sincerely believe that the words “HUH ??!!” and “STUFF ??” are more than sufficient, in their inexhaustible linguistic repertoire, to carry on what they deem, is an active two way communication with a parent.

Those single words have capacities beyond one’s imagination. But hold on. It is not just that word HUH what works its magic. It goes hand in hand with what we have, by now, named “The Look”.

The Look is a rather potent, lethal blend of “glazed over” eyes with slightly drooping eyelids. It is accompanied by lips that are either pursed together or stretched at the ends, giving out an aura of tediousness (don’t get me wrong – I am SO not talking about a smile here) and The Look would be more or less complete with eyebrows that would be raised about as high as they can go. A wee bit higher and they would be fused to the hairline!! “The Look” makes you feel right on top of the world, because apparently that’s where self-made dummies are usually found.

Now, today I asked Pecan something over Whatsapp and immediately comes the reply ‘cbbs’. While I was still trying to figure that one out, I sent him another question.  Yeah, what can I say ?  I’m an absolute glutton for punishment.  He replies saying ‘idts’.

You get the drift, don't you ?

By the time Macadamia and Pecan are done speaking those sentences that sound progressively like some alien language, I’m usually found reeling someplace in the house, trying my best to look normal and retain my composure, attempting to figure out what had actually been said. By the time my brain actually comprehends what they’ve said and by the time I formulate an appropriate response in a more human language, the siblings would have moved on to something else altogether, leaving me gaping and gasping like a fish out of water.

Ok. Let’s try some on you, shall we ? :-D

On point / on fleek / OOTD / OOTN / Ship / Otp / NOtp / Slay / TBT / idts / iccl / Dingis / sksv …… and the list goes on !!
Let’s see how many of you, who were, in all probability laughing at the sorry figure I must have cut earlier, figure those out ??!!

Did I just hear you say you don’t know what those intellectually coordinated strings of letters mean?  Seriously ??!!”

Well then, you’ve just been introduced to the infamous ‘TeenLect’.
I should probably patent that term and run classes called ‘Decoding TeenLect’.
For those attending, I promise a free flow of chamomile tea.  On the house !

29 November, 2017

The Parenting Gig - A Mom's Musings

(Image courtesy : The Mother Diaries via Google)

We hear people saying this to us more often nowadays ‘Parenting should not be tough for you guys anymore.  The kids are all grown up so you guys can breathe easy.  It’s not difficult anymore’. 

Hmmm… those statements can't be further away from the truth.  I'm not talking just about us.  I guess I speak for every single parent out there. 

Parenting IS tough, no matter how grown up your kids may be.  

Hell, I still drive my mom nuts !

When couples or single parents decide to step into parenting, it is pretty much like taking a leap of faith, many times over, off a plane in the sky, with a parachute strapped on.  There are times when the said parachute opens and there will be times when the said parachute refuses to open, claiming defects of some sort of the other.  Either ways, once a parent, the onus to land on terra firma becomes a necessity because it is not just the parent that the parent needs to look out for, it is the child / children as well.

When Macadamia and Pecan were newborns, small babies, toddlers, little children, there have been so many such instances that we’ve been through.  Some days all was well, some days all was not well.  There were days when we felt we were doing fine at the parenting gig, there were days when we felt we were absolute supremos at this parenting gig and then there was many a time when we felt all we did was wrong, that we were falling short as parents all the time, that we were the biggest living blunders on this planet.

Once one embarks on this journey called parenting, at every given stage of your child’s life, the doubts that make their way into your mind are constant.  The questions are unrelenting, they are insistent and they are remorseless.  Irrespective of whether you’ve had a good night’s sleep or whether you haven’t been able to sleep a wink for days together, the questions and doubts continue their onslaught on a parent’s mind.

‘Should I have got my child into a playgroup to learn social skills ?’ to ‘Should my child have been potty trained by now ?’ to ‘Am I communicating enough with my teen ?’ to ‘Should my kids be pushing themselves as much as they are, right now ?’ to 'Am I being too easy on them ?' to ‘Are they getting enough sleep ?’, the questions simply continue to flow.  They never stop.  Children move from one phase of growth to another but the questions continue to surface and evolve.

When Macadamia and Pecan were little, I remember not having slept for nights together because both of them were horrible when it came to sleeping.  There have been times when Pecan used to wake up the minute I got to bed.  There have been numerous times when Macadamia has woken up multiple times in the night and screamed or cried – just like that.  Even at times like those, body totally exhausted, mind slipping out of control, one part of your mind wanting to throw in the towel, parents still tend to look at their kids and say ‘Yes love.  What’s the matter ?’

There have been times when both of them used to be sick at the same time and I remember couple of such instances in particular when I got puked on so many times during the night that we actually ran out of sheets and pillow covers.  I clearly remember being at the very end of my tether.  In the wee hours of the morning, both sick babies fell asleep and I vividly remember looking around at the house - which looked like a disaster zone - things strewn here, there, everywhere, piles of laundry to be done and there I was, in my crumpled pajamas, hair disheveled and wild eyed - but I remember I could not bring myself to move.  Yet, life went on.  W
e managed, as have numerous other parents the world over.

Yes, extreme exhaustion is a thing.  It exists.  At some point of time or the other on the parenting road, every single person does reach that point of no return in terms of being exhausted but we grit our teeth, pull up our socks and carry on.  Because we simply have to.  

Earlier in the year, I was rather acutely aware of the fact that there was every possibility that Macadamia would take off to some university in some other part of the world.  Darn !!  That brought to the fore those two words again – ‘letting go’ – the two words that are eternally scripted onto the book called ‘Things parents need to learn’.  Not easy.  Far from it.  But parents the world over do it - they learn to let go - not because they want to - but simply because they have to.

I stepped into parenthood 18 years ago.  Don’t you go about having any illusions of it having been as easy as stepping into a pair of well worn shoes.  It was more like wiggling my feet into shoes that were a couple of sizes small.  Heck !  I didn’t even know how to hold a newborn properly when Macadamia was born.  I was clumsy, it felt awkward and there were always those questions that I talked about earlier – unrelenting and incessant – making me feel all the more inadequate.  Eighteen years back is a long time but those memories are so vivid.  Macadamia was a colicky baby and there have been plenty of times when I felt hopelessly out of place, incompetent as a mom.

But I learnt, as does every new parent.  That’s pretty much what it is – parenting teaches you something new every single step of the way.  Right from realizing that you hurt more when your child hurts to understanding that letting go is never as easy or practical as it is made to sound.

Through all these years, parenthood has taught me many hard truths.  Every single one of those learning experiences has left its mark in its own inimitable way.  Parenting has its own way of turning feelings of helplessness into those of toughness and resilience, of turning weaknesses into cores of strengths. 

This one goes out to all the new parents out there and all the parents to be.  Parenting IS tough.  Through it all, you will probably realize just as I have (somewhere along the way) that parenting is not about making things perfect.  It is about realizing, accepting how much fun and how complete life is, with all those little imperfect bits.  It is about consciously appreciating the imperfections that make each individual what he or she is, valuing and welcoming the wholesomeness that the said imperfection brings with it.

Parenting is not about life being any easier because the kids have grown up.  It is about those complications that have a permanent place in one’s life, about how those complexities turn into little pieces of truth and wisdom and how those, in turn, embed themselves into your family, your psyche and serve to make your whole family one wholesome unit fused by togetherness.

Trust me, there will be times when you will feel like throwing in the towel, but you won’t.  You may cry, you may scream out of sheer exhaustion and frustration, you may weep out of fear and that feeling of incompetence, you may throw things, you may break things but – you will still trudge on, you will continue to carry on, you will grit your teeth and scale that mountain called parenting, you will continue caring for and nurturing the lives you were instrumental in bringing into this world.

Parenting, sometimes, is not just difficult, it is impossible. Yet, you will carry on.  That mantra then embeds itself in your heart and mind  -

'Impossible - Yes, it does feel that way sometimes.

Difficult - It has always been.  It still is. It always will be. 

Carry on and give it my best - Yes, I will.  We will.’

01 November, 2017

Two Birds, One Stone - 200 word Micro Fiction

(Image : wattpad.com via Google)

“No !” rang the journalist’s voice, laced with desperation, dripping with anguish. “I did not kill her. His lawyer looked at him and smiled - a confident smile that said “Don't worry - we'll win”

She’d been a very famous model.  They’d been seeing each other regularly. Two months back, she had been found dead in her apartment.  His fingerprints were all over and he was charged with her murder. 

The murderer had been visiting the courtroom regularly.  He had been smitten by her and had courted her.  Things had started warming between them and suddenly, out of the blue, came this journalist.  What started off as a professional interview turned personal. He discovered that they were having an affair

“In the light of the evidence presented, I request that my client be acquitted” boomed the defense counsel’s voice. 

“After taking into consideration all the evidence presented before the court, this court finds the defendant guilty of murder” intoned the judge.

“She spurned me and got what she deserved.  He stole her from me and got what he deserved.  Two birds with one stone” thought the murderer, as he gathered his black robes around him and rose from the judge’s chair.

12 July, 2017

Helicopter Parenting - Shielding kids from disappointment

(Image via Google)

The IB results were declared last week.  The Secondary School places allotments came through yesterday.  The HKDSE results are expected today.  Results always bring to the fore the ever-present fascination with numbers – the attribution of a number that classifies an individual as a success or a failure. 

Do these numbers serve a purpose other than to make kids more conscious of setting a certain bar for themselves, if they fall below which, they deem themselves to be failures ?  Why ? 

As parents, giving credence to numbers and achievements can be attributed to the fact that these are undeniably associated with their futures and careers.  But, the current education systems in most parts of the world have made parents re-align their attitudes towards priorities in raising kids.  Elements like self-identities and self-worth are increasingly being determined based on achievements and external recognition. 

Somewhere along the way, helicopter parenting has become a common thing where everything is timetabled, set by parents who also consider it necessary to shield kids from disappointment and pain of failure.

The Secondary School place allotments were declared yesterday.  One could see parents running helter-skelter, in sheer desperation, to other schools, if their child had not managed to get into a school of choice while the students in question themselves, meandered rather aimlessly, looking lost and doomed.  This brings me to my next point.

What kind of future generation are we raising ? 

It is only too frightfully common to see parents intervening in situations to the extent that the youth of today doesn’t have to, doesn’t know how to face problems head on and try solving them themselves.  If homework is forgotten, one of the parents or the help at home rushes to school with the said book.  On one of the forums that Macadamia uses, for researching on universities, she found quite a number of parents posing questions on behalf of their 18 year-old children, claiming that their children are not old enough / mature enough to pose questions by themselves.  Are we not setting the youth up for failure by over extending support to this extent ?  Are we not erasing those lines of accountability that are associated with / drawn by a youngster’s own actions, thus teaching them a life lesson in responsibility ? 

Parents nowadays don’t want their kids to come face to face with failure of any kind.  The other day, during the Parent Teacher meeting, I came across a few parents who did not want their kids to know how they had done at school because the kids would be disappointed.  While part of me understood the kids being disappointed, part of me was quite bewildered at this parental logic.  It left me wondering if it is that bad a thing for kids to experience disappointment.  Is it ? 

Pecan has experienced not being able to attain what he set out to achieve, on more than one occasion.  Last year, he was pipped to the post in the finals of a competition, giving the phrase ‘so near yet so far’ a new meaning.  Recently, he narrowly lost out on being the Head Prefect at school. 

Macadamia was stonewalled and lost out on an UK university because of being underage.  Now, despite the gruelling hours she put in, she is in a situation where her first choice of university hangs in balance because she fell short by 1 point in her IB results.  She does have her backup plan but is still having to battle it out for her first choice.

Disappointments, letdowns, discouragements – all these are part of life.  I personally think it is very important for children to learn that disappointment is an emotion that is normal, is experienced, and what is most important is not to dwell on it, but to learn from it and move on.  Kids need to learn that falling is a normal part of the life process but the more important thing is being able to get up, dust themselves off, and face the future, head on, again. 

Kids can and should be protected only so much, for, there will come a day when each one of them will have to meet the future head on.  After having protected them from failures all along, after having shielded them from hurt and disappointment all along, what will it be like for them, if they are suddenly expected to learn about facing disappointments after they are 18 ?

As parents, I think we would stand our kids in good stead if we focus on cultivating in them, qualities of hard work, perseverance, resilience, endurance, flexibility, toughness, strength, empathy, adaptability, responsiveness, and being responsible global citizens of tomorrow.  Society needs to start focusing on character and as parents, it is time we started teaching the next generation the true meaning of responsibility and accountability, respecting their interests and leanings, rather than use kids as mouthpieces or receptacles for our own unfulfilled dreams and ambitions.  

While we are at it, we need to let them experience the falls that are a natural process of growing up, for to learn to get up, dust themselves and get ready to face the future is way more important a life lesson than conveniently handing it to them on a platter.

30 June, 2017

Not in my name !

(Image courtesy : scroll.in via Google)

My heart bleeds for the state our country is in now, my heart bleeds !
A strong, sensible voice of reason is what it desperately needs
Minorities are being targeted, lynched with impunity
While, either in complicity or in fear, silently watches the majority communitiy.

Tagore once said ‘ Where the head is held high and the mind is without fear’
That was our country erstwhile, tolerant, inclusive and austere.
Where we hinged on beliefs like ahimsa and non-violence
Now one sees radicalism and bloodshed, sanctioned by religious vehemence.

This was a country where souls like Mahatma Gandhi preached
Now look to what depths it has sunk, the new lows that people have reached
Non-violence, ahimsa, tolerance, truth reigned, people fought for independence as one
Now the same country lies in tatters, of the above good qualities, in people who govern, there seemingly is none.

Corrupt, fanatic politicians now rule the roost
Sanctioning violence based on religion, giving facism a boost
Where, in celebrating festivals, people used to come together and rejoice
People of all castes and creed, hand in hand, gave joy and celebration a voice
What has gone wrong with the country that, to unity in diversity, showed the path
Now, in the name of religion, we see minority festivals turn into a bloodbath.

People are scared to talk, to air their views
From the fascist fanatics in power, most take their cues
For those political leaders who thump their broad chests and claim in vain
Think carefully before you claim ‘on my government, there are no stains’.

Organised religion has turned into a favourite tool
Steeping minds and hearts with hatred, forming vile cesspools
There is so much bloodshed in the name of religion and God
In the name of one who is said to protect and nurture, is that not odd ?

Caste and religion are such fertile breeding grounds today
With politicians whipping up a frenzy, ever ready to lead people astray
The heart aches and the eyes sting with tears
As to false promises, people are radicalized, the minorities live in abject fear

Women now have no place to voice themselves now
What has more protection and respect in the country, is a cow !
Women are still treated as objects to claim and plunder
But mobs lynching people in the name of cows, is this not insanity, I wonder !

Why are politicians sanctioning, spreading such hatred and loathing ?
In doing so, what future course are they charting ?
Lynching, mob killing in the name of personal conviction
Oh brethren !  Human attitudes are so brazen !

People in the country are fast being dragged into a mire
Radicalised fanatics killing people, setting their worlds afire
Humanity is being steadily imprisoned in cages of bigotry
To unjustified violence, killing, lynching, there now seems no boundary.

Protests abound, as people gather and voice their dissent, they care
Placards everywhere,  saying ‘not in my name’, their hearts in despair
Like them, I bear allegiance to the Constitution of my country
One that calls for harmony and secularism, not radicalised pomp and pageantry

My heart bleeds for the state our country is in now, my heart bleeds
A strong, sensible voice of reason is what it desperately needs.

27 June, 2017

The TamBrahm Series (Part 13) - Chorunnu / Annaprashnam

(Image via Google)

We left this series hanging at the naming ceremony (the Namakaranam) of the baby.  There are little ceremonies that are conducted at the drop of a hat in TamBrahm households but in trying to highlight the major ones (meaning functions where half the city is invited to attend), the next one has to be the Annaprashanam. 

The little people, aka babies do lead a rather boring life in terms of food, during the first few months of their lives.  No wonder then, that they cry or make their displeasure known, quite often.  We adults, however, take those tears and howls as a sign of hunger and feed them some more tasteless liquids or better still, tasteless mush.  

Now these babies are very smart little people.  Ever seen how fascinated babies are when they watch people eat ?  Well, we don’t stop to think of what’s going on inside their little heads, do we ?  Plenty, is what I’d think.  When it’s their turn, it’s back to eating mush without much taste to it and we adults are indeed pushing our luck in expecting them to adore the stuff they’re fed during their first few months of life.

Trust me babies, you have no idea what you’ve missed out on !!!

There comes a point when babies start turning their heads away, pursing their lips tightly closed at the sight of that infamous “lunch or dinner” or better still, lull their caregivers into a sense of complacency by taking in a whole spoonful of the mush and seconds later, spitting it all out with the force of a stone leaving a catapult.   That’s when the penny drops in the human head – ah ha !  The baby wants solid food. 

The baby is tired of eating (well, if you can call rolling the mush around inside the mouth and swallowing the goop that) mush !!  Bunch of Einsteins, I tell ya !

The necessary calls to the priest are made.  Why priest aaaa ?  If you haven’t figured that one out by now, I’d probably categorize you in the ‘beyond hope’ box.  See, no TamBrahm function ever happens without an officiating priest.  Yeah … they are considered THAT important.

The ‘event’ quite a bit of planning – duh !  Which TamBrahm function doesn’t require planning huh ?!  It needs some core people to be present – the most important being the baby, of course.  What did you think I was going to say ?  The priest ??  Nah !!  The baby beats them to it here.

A feast is in the offing but the star of the day is not offered all the items on the feast spread.  Their tummies haven’t as yet turned into the foodie tummies that TamBrahms are blessed with.  This is just the start towards turning that little individual into a gourmand gastronome (really don’t know why some people think that glutton is a synonym for every TamBrahm out there. I really don’t.)

The usual pomp and pageantry is on display by the family priest and his horde of assistants – who would be busy setting things up, spilling things, smearing things on the floor, wiping stuff on their veshtis (dhotis) so much so that the so called white veshti would soon be looking like a multi coloured mural of modern art.  They will, of course, be asking for things that were not on the original list and generally making sure that a whole plethora of chaos ensues in the said household.  That’s what they are paid for, truth be told and this is something I’ve always believed.

Once the food items are set out on a plate or a banana leaf (for TamBrahms it is usually a banana leaf – what I mean is the food items are served on a banana leaf – just in case some of you are under the impression that we TamBrahms make our babies eat a banana leaf.)  The father would be dutifully sitting with baby on his lap while the mother would be standing a couple of steps behind the father (the TamBrahm community is pretty steeped in patriarchy, so…).  Baby, in the meanwhile, would be at a stage where anything and everything gets eaten – except, yep – you guessed that right - food. 

The father is then asked to feed the baby a little something from the banana leaf.  At this point in time, past experience has taught me that it is better to be specific and tell the father to start by feeding the baby something taste specific like sweet or sour or salty – you get the picture, right ? .  Else, baby could possibly end up tasting a mix of sambar, rasam, yoghurt,pickle , payasam, banana – well just about everything on the banana leaf – all at one go.  I kid you not – that’s how some people eat.  Baby could end up with a very confused palate, methinks.  But then again, it would convince the little people that this confusion in the palate is why most adults wear a perpetually confused look and talk gibberish when talking to these little humans !! 

There will be times when one would come across babies that don’t really like sweet stuff.  But nah !  We TamBrahms are made of sterner stuff.  The baby gets fed, baby spits, baby gets fed the same thing again, baby spits again, baby gets fed a bigger spoonful by some Einstein who, by this time, strongly believes that baby is spitting out stuff because there wasn’t enough on the spoon !

Ahem …. Ever considered the remote possibility that your baby doesn’t like sweets ??!!  Feed the baby Doritos or Lays or some such thing for a change and you’ll know for sure.  But then again, some things just don’t happen, do they ?  This whole feeding / spitting out process continues till the new parents are convinced (by now) that their baby, for some weird reason, hates solid food and the baby in question has pretty much begun to think that the whole thing is one big game. Big people feed, I spit – that’s the name of the game.  What fun, I say !

Baby might pick up an ant scurrying about nearby and pop it into its mouth and relish it like a tasty snack but those few first mouthfuls of ghee and rice would invariably be used as confetti to pepper baby’s own face or if baby is industrious enough, to find its mark on the faces of people around the baby.  Either way, for the spectators, it is time to grab that bag of popcorn.  Highly possible things could get funny.

You see, toddlers have a very simple rule.  Food, no matter what the cuisine, always tastes better when picked off the floor and eaten.  Did you just say ‘eeewww’ ?  Where else the hell do you think they get their immunity from ?  Ten years down the line, when you’re enjoying that lip smacking bhel at a roadside joint, do remember to say thanks to Mother Nature for making it a part and parcel of every single toddler, to pick stuff off the floor and send it on its way into their tummies !

Also, it’s so not fair to deprive the little ones of interesting things like say a pizza or some crisps and what have you.  After all, the purpose of this ceremony is to let them know that there’s a whole nice world of food waiting for them beyond the mush they have been fed until now.  How can parents keep all the good things away from them ?  Wish this had struck us before our kids’ annaprashnam.  Ahem …. Things would have been slightly different then.

For the TamBrahms, everything starts with food and ends with food.  So does the Chorunnu.  There’s nothing more to it, really.  The baby is just given a glimpse of what he/she is missing on a day to day basis (in terms of lip smacking food, as they down their mush) and off goes baby, into the arms of the doting grandparents or aunts or uncles or neighbours or whatever.  As always, the real feast is enjoyed by the adults and of course, the vadhyars.

In some other states in India, this Annaprashnam ceremony is usually followed by laying multiple items in front of baby.  A book symbolising learning, Jewellery symbolising wealth, A pen symbolising wisdom, some clay symbolising property (I believe).    Whoever thought of that last bit, of putting a lump of clay in front of a toddler (and expecting them not to eat it) has to be an absolute genius.  Without question, that one !

The baby is then allowed to crawl over and choose one of the items as the adults around him/her wait with bated breath to see which one the baby picks.  I’d personally say it depends on what’s going through the little genius’s mind right then.  Baby logic would ideally dictate – I’m going to pick up whatever can fit in my nostrils or my ears or, of course, what can be chewed on !  I really don’t think babies know it in their heads that he/she is ordained to be a civil engineer or a writer or whatever.  But then, customs and traditions still triumph and yes, please don’t ask why !  No one knows !! 

I’ve always wondered what people steeped in tradition would make of a baby that picks up a book and starts to chew on it !!  Go figure !!  They are curious little humans.
Fortunately, us TamBrahms do not offer our babies such mouth watering choices else Macadamia would have eaten them all up, for sure.  That kid used to eat everything else, except vegetables and fruit and other foods that are considered fit for human consumption.  During her first birthday, she literally chewed through one of her dad’s watches !!  Imagine letting her loose with a lump of clay and a pen and what have you.  For Macadamia, it would have been a feast beyond description !!

Let’s not even start with Pecan.  That kid was an insanely curious bee who used to stuff crayons in his ears and pick ants off the floor and pop them into his mouth.  I’m pretty sure he still has a couple of small thermocol bits somewhere in his nasal passage or maybe those bits have travelled half the world into the sinus cavities or some such. 
If a whole plethora of things had been laid out at his Annaprashnam, the pen would promptly have been stuck into a nostril (not necessarily his own), the book would have been chewed on or turned into a hat (thank your stars that he doesn't particularly like origami) and he would probably have dunked the food on his own head – logic being – if food is dunked on the head, it slides down due to gravity and then you eat it.  See, you don’t need to use your hands.  Now are you beginning to get a fair idea of the kind of kid he was ? 

Well, so now that little Iyer baby has been introduced to solid food, the chorunnu ceremony is deemed wover.  The baby goes back to eating mush (ever seen that look of shock on baby’s face as he/she gets fed mush again after the chorunnu).  That must be one confused little human being. 

We’ll take leave for now, mush and all and meet up soon, over the baby’s first birthday, I guess.

Poittu varen na !  Pinney paarkalam !  See you all soon !  Stay tuned for the next post as paapa (baby in TamBrahm lexis) turns a year old !!